SLV School District Perspectives


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Recall Intent Notice Analysis, page 4

Failed to effectively evaluate and address all deficiencies in School Closure Committee's Report, which required re-evaluating applicable facts for appropriate school closure recommendation. Failed to successfully evaluate the School Closure Committee Rebuttal Response Report that included additional qualified information from: Boulder Creek Fire Protection District; Caltrans Engineers; District Architect; Earthquake Engineering and Geological Studies; Health and Safety issues and Federal American Disability Act Standards.

The intent notice now returns to what is apparently the main point - the closure of Redwood Elementary School.

Bearing in mind that there is no such thing as a perfect decision-making process (we humans don't have a very great track record at working together on complex problems!), and that ALL reports have deficiencies, how do we go about deciding whether an adequate job was done by the School Closure Committee and the School Board? The issue isn't "can we pick the process apart and find flaws" (the answer to this question is always going to be "yes"), but "is the report so substantially flawed that to ignore those flaws constitutes gross dereliction of duty and leads to an outcome that is indefensible?".

During this process, a very carefully constructed committee reviewed the data on each school. Many, many hours of community input were considered. The vote in the North District was very decisive (14-3) in favor of keeping Boulder Creek Elementary open. After the committee's recommendation, much more testimony was heard by both the board and community. Most of the school closure committee attended these meetings, and I talked to several of them. They stated that most of what was presented was redundant (they had heard it during the committee's process) and the remaining evidence was not persuasive. They said that if they had had this additional information before voting, they would not have voted differently.

In the end, school board members reviewed all the evidence, asked many questions, and decided to accept the School Closure Committee's recommendations.

Again, was the process perfect? No. Those who know me know I found it frustrating at times. Yet, I also know it was set up as carefully as anyone knew how to do it. Many of the board members were present at most of the meetings, and the number of votes for BCE was impressive. The committee was carefully chosen, much evidence was reviewed, reports were given, and community members were allowed every opportunity to voice their concerns. I haven't tallied up the hours of community input, but between the school closure meetings, special board meetings, and regular board meetings, it must have approached 30 hours or more. (Contrast this with the process in Santa Cruz.)

I will say more about this when I write about the school closure process, but suffice it to say that I think this process was FAR from resembling anything like gross incompetence. It was messy, but then again, democracy usually is. I can only conclude that the phrase "failed to successfully evaluate" is code for "didn't vote the way we hoped they would".

Failed to effectively evaluate cash donation of $250,000 which could allow an additional elementary school to remain open.

This charge touches on a particularly emotional issue. A number of dedicated parents worked incredibly hard to get a large sum of money together (the exact amount has not been officially certified), and it must have been hard to turn them down. It should have been clear from the very beginning, though, that the district could not accept this money. In my view, the board made a mistake in not stating this immediately.

There are many reasons for not taking the parents up on this offer, but it seems that a primary reason was that out of necessity the board has had to become very conservative when it comes to allocating money to projects which might consume more than is allocated. To take a recent example, the board failed to vote in favor of an after-school program in the south part of the district. The plan for this program had lots of safeguards in place so that it would not lose money. If EVERYTHING went wrong, the district could have lost AT MOST 10-12 thousand dollars, and this was highly unlikely. We also stood to gain much more than that, as many south district families who educate their children elsewhere cite after-school care as one of the reasons for leaving (bringing children back into the district needs to be a major goal). If even this small amount of risk was too much for the board to take, it is not surprising that they turned down the offer to keep Redwood open, which risked many times more than this amount.

In conclusion, I find the grounds for recall cited by the proponents far short of compelling. Disagreeing with a decision, even a key one, is not grounds for recall, especially when the question was argued by many who had different points of view.

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